MIAMI, United States (AFP) — Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant was a runaway winner for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award announced Thursday, receiving 99 out of a possible 100 first-place votes.
Morant became the club’s second player to scoop the award, following in the footsteps of Spain’s Pau Gasol, who won it in 2002.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, the top overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, claimed the only other first-place vote, the league said in results released on Thursday.
In the polling of 100 global sportswriters and broadcasters, Morant tallied 498 points under the system that offered five points for a first-place vote, three for a second-place vote and one for a third-place vote.
Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn finished in second place with 204 points and Williamson finished third with 140 points.
The voting was conducted based on regular-season games played through March 11, when the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The seeding games, which were played July 30 – August 14 as part of the season restart, did not count toward voting.
But Morant, who was taken second overall in the 2019 draft, helped the Grizzlies contend for a playoff berth in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
He scored a career-high 35 points as the Grizzlies fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in a play-in game for the eighth and final Western Conference post-season spot — bringing his stellar rookie campaign to a close.
From the beginning of the season through March 11, Morant led all qualified NBA rookies in scoring with 16.6 points per game and assists with 6.9 per game.
He shot 49.1% from the field in 59 games. During that period, Morant was one of three NBA players to average at least 17.0 points and 6.0 assists and shoot 49.0 percent or better from the field, joining 2020 NBA All-Stars LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers and Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets.
His 11 double-doubles in that span were a rookie high, and he produced the only triple-double by a rookie when he finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against the Washington Wizards on February 9.
He had at least 20 points and 10 assists in seven games, including a 27-point, 14-assist performance against the Los Angeles Lakers on February 29.
Morant showed plenty of poise for a rookie, finishing ninth in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring.
© Agence France-Presse